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Business Slips in Regulatory Mire

Regulation sometimes produces litigation as companies get bogged down with new laws

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WARLIER this month, the United States Labor Department proposed a $1.3 million penalty against a Pennsylvania painting contractor for ``failing to provide even the most basic protections for its workers.''

The Manganas Painting Company, based in Canonsburg, Pa., was cited for exposing its employees to unacceptable levels of lead as they sandblasted lead-based paint from a bridge over the Little Miami River near Ohio. Congress mandated new lead standards in 1992 that bring the maximum allowable exposure to lead for construction workers to the same level as all other workers. Invoking these new standards, which went into effect last August, Labor Department officials slapped multiple citations on Manganas.

This episode demonstrates the Clinton administration's resolve to strictly enforce health and safety regulations for the work force. Labor Department officials say it is a harbinger of things to come in their broad overview of workers' rights. But it is also a window into the cumbersome regulatory process, in which the government can impose severe charges on employers for not playing by an increasingly complex set of rules.

While business studies measure the toll of regulation on economic growth, they fail to show the quality-of-life improvements.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the entity that clamped down on Manganas, is just one of dozens of regulatory agencies and sub-agencies that monitor compliance with laws ranging from environmental protection to product safety.

While these watchdogs are credited with noble efforts to improve the American quality of life, their laws have incurred resentment in the private sector.

Keeping up with regulations

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